What Kalin Lucas means to Michigan St.

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By Paul M. Banks and Jeff Ghiringhelli

By now you all know that Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas will be out for the remainder of the tournament with a ruptured achilles tendon. Rehabilitation will last 4-6 months, but head coach Tom Izzo is confident that he will make a full recovery and be ready for next season.

Stepping into the spotlight for the second time this season will be backup point guard Korie Lucious. He filled in for Lucas earlier this season when the star point guard went down with a sprained ankle. Lucious did not fare very well, as the Spartans lost three games in a row against tough opposition with him at the point. Officially, MSU is 0-1 this year without Lucas

Things may be different this time however. Lucious hit the exciting, buzzer beating three pointer on Sunday to beat Maryland, and send the Spartans to the Sweet 16. His confidence should be sky high. Of course, even if Lucious does well the rest of the tournament, MSU will be missing their team leader.kalin lucas

Lucas led the Spartans in points, assists, field goals made and attempted, and minutes per game. Not to mention his abilities as the floor general and calming influence during the game. He didn’t earn the nickname “Too Easy” for nothing. “Leadership- that’s what my most important trait is,” Lucas told me after the Big ten tournament, “also what I’m focused on improving on the most,” he continued.

Lucas is easily one of the quickest players in basketball, if not THE quickest. His loss greatly hurts their transition game, so expect the Spartans to possibly play at a slower pace versus Northern Iowa than they did against Maryland. You won’t be hearing a game plan like this

“As far as us I think we are going to push the pace a little bit. That’s something we do well. We’re going to make sure we push the ball, make sure I push the ball at all times and we’re going to make sure we run,” Lucas said before Sunday’s game.

Of course, no player is perfect, and Lucas is no exception. After returning from his sprained ankle, Lucas went through a stretch where he only averaged nine points per game with a shooting percentage under 40 percent. The Spartans struggled as a result, finishing their last ten games at 5-5. He can also get frustrated on the court at times, and that can bring the entire team down.

Izzo knows the importance of Lucas to his team’s success, and has used some tough love this season to prove it. He threw Lucas out of a practice near the beginning of the season, saying that he needed to better realize and demonstrate his role as leader. Lucas responded well, but now that he is done, other players must fill this role.

Senior Raymar Morgan has been playing very well of late, and he must keep it up this weekend. Sophomore Draymond Green is expected to see an increase in minutes, and may even be asked to become the new vocal leader. Green fits the role well despite being an underclassman. He is not afraid to speak up and show emotions on the court, as he began doing so at the Final Four last year. This season, Izzo has clearly shown he’s frustrated with how State’s year has gone. Both Draymond and Kalin were asked what needs to be done to get this team back into Izzo’s good graces. kalin lucas

“I think we’re pretty much past that point where he’s frustrated. It’s one and done time. We have pretty much wiped our slate clean of everything that went on in the regular season. We’re all working together as a team now. Coaches, players, managers, everyone, because we all know that one loss and you’re done for the year. So it’s pretty much wiped clean and no more frustration for anyone,” Green responded.

Kalin’s response? “Pretty much agree with that answer.”

Regardless of who steps up statistically, Lucas’ shoes cannot be completely filled. He will obviously travel with the team this weekend, so his vocal leadership will be present on the bench. Of course, everyone on the team wishes he was in uniform instead. How the Spartans react and play on Friday will be very interesting to watch.

A good sign for State? They already beat a higher-seeded Maryland team without a 100% Kalin Lucas. They won despite playing without their star for much of the game, and when they did have him on Sunday, he really wasn’t himself again. Lucas tweaked his ankle again in the win over New Mexico St. on Friday.

“I wouldn’t say he’s a hundred percent. Because I think he’s a hundred percent in his mind because he knows what is on the line and that’s all that matters to me. But there’s no doubt he tweaked that ankle again and he did practice today, wanted to practice which speaks a little about him,” Izzo said on Saturday before the game.

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